Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia


March 14, 2017

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia–Political Islamism out of UMNO’s desperation

by Rashaad Ali

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/08/gauging-support-for-islamic-law-in-malaysia/

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The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang

The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.

Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.

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Hudud –The  Political Hypocrisy of  It All

Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.

But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.

Image result for zaid ibrahim dapThis Guy does not  know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?

The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.

The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.

The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.

As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.

Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.

Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.

It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.

The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.

As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.

Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This article was first published here on RSIS.

 

 

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name


February 26, 2017

Universiti Malaya: Nip Racism in the bud and clear your name

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

In deciding to investigate an allegation of racism against one of its associate professors, Universiti Malaya gives itself an opportunity to prove to the Malaysian public that it upholds a high standard of decency.

We await the findings of the five-member investigation panel and the university’s follow-up action. However, one wonders whether Universiti Malaya would have bothered to look into the matter if it hadn’t received a directive from the Education Ministry. Indeed, it did not have to wait for the directive. It should have maintained an alertness to issues that might affect its reputation and it should act speedily.

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The allegation came in a Facebook posting by a student. The article, titled “Voice of an Indian student”, has gone viral.

The student said the lecturer, in reprimanding her and another student, dispensed with the courtesy of calling them by their names and instead called them “India”.

Here, in brief, is the story according to the Facebook posting:

The lecturer said, “India, I don’t like Indians sitting together.” After making a disparaging remark about a private university, she added: “When Indians sit together, they will plagiarise and copy one another’s assignments. I recognise Indian traits.”

The abuse continued. She pointed to the student and her friend and told them to sit separately, saying, “I will ensure that the two of you will not be in the same group for your assignment. I know what Indians are like.”

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This Ikan Bakar Man–Jamal Yunus– is a racist. Najib and UMNO support him and so Najib is a racist and UMNO is a racist political party. Q.E.D.

Then she insulted the other Indian students in the class. She made no excuses for her behaviour and said she did not mind if no one promoted Universiti Malaya because she preferred to teach smaller classes.

So, is this what you learn in a top Malaysian university – racism, intolerance, rudeness, insensitivity? When asked for his reaction, one postgraduate student said, “Academicians in Malaysian public universities should uphold a high standard of ethics. Making stereotypical racist comments against students is very unbecoming and reflects badly on the university and the degrees it confers.”

The student who wrote the complaint has demanded an apology from the lecturer.

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The Fun Loving but Insecure Malays

An apology to the direct victims of the insult is not enough, if the lecturer is indeed guilty. She should apologise to the public and the apology should be published in all the mainstream papers. And Universiti Malaya must sack her.

Qutbist Zakir Naik — Threat to National Security(?)


February 25, 2017

 Qutbist Zakir Naik — Threat to National Security (?)

by S Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Theresa May on Zakir Naik

Qutbist Zakir Naik endorsed by Najib, Hadi and Harussani et.al in UMNO and PAS

“Is there any need for Muslim scholars or intellectuals, when according to Harussani, spiritual rewards are possible without understanding or hard work but with blind recitation in a foreign tongue?”

– S Thayaparan, ‘Zakir Naik and his poverty of ideas

In yesterday’s article, I argued that it is immoral for Malaysians not to speak up when faced with an existential threat. I also rejected the idea that merely keeping silent when it comes to the excesses of a state-sponsored religion is evidence of racial and religious harmony.

Here in Malaysia, there is enough empirical evidence of the bias of the state when it comes to dealing with religious provocations. Freedom of speech is limited but what is not in short supply are the efforts of the security apparatus to police our public spaces in an attempt to curb any provocations against Islam.

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This is where someone like Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik thrives. He is free to make claims against any religion he chooses, safe in the knowledge that his speech is protected whilst his detractors are not. Admirers of Zakir (and unfortunately, they are legions) seem to have no knowledge of his attacks against other religions or peoples even when evidence is adduced to demonstrate such.

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Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi is playing politics with Qutbist Zakir Naik

A couple of years ago, I had a very public falling out with Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy, and while we may disagree on a range of issues, I admire his tenacity in tackling this issue of Zakir Naik. It is a matter of public record that I have argued numerous times, the Islamist – using the Sam Harris definition – agenda is the existential threat facing Malaysia today.

Waytha has been in the forefront of making the case that Zakir is a threat to national security but so far this has been a muted affair with other NGOs not jumping in the fray for various reasons. The indefatigable Lim Teck Ghee is attempting to remedy this sad state of affairs by reaching out to other interested parties, while Waytha has been busy agitating the UMNO state to the dangers of Zakir Naik.

When Zakir was banned from England in 2010, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then Home Secretary, said (on BBC) – “Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.”

While certain countries have argued that his behaviour is unacceptable, Malaysia on the other hand, when denying rumours that he was granted citizenships, said (Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed) – “He is more Indian and South Asia-centric but some of his ideas can be used here. That’s why he was awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah award.” What exactly those “ideas” are was not mentioned.

In reference to letters written by Waytha’s solicitors to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Waytha said – “I am rather puzzled and am not able to comprehend as to why you and your government seem to be harbouring this fugitive who is evading arrest and investigations under the terrorism laws and money laundering of Republic of India. On the contrary, you and the deputy prime minister seem to be innocently and naively hosting the said Zakir Naik for breakfast and dinners.”

In that same letter to the Prime Minister, Waytha argued that Zakir is as much of a threat to Malaysia as he is to the United Kingdom. The following are what Waytha wants the Prime Minister to answer:

1) Whether you would place the security of Malaysia and the peaceful co-existence of our multiracial and multi-religious society top priority.

2) Whether you would honour your pledge at international conferences to cooperate with international community to combat terrorism.

3) Whether it is indeed true Zakir has been given permanent resident status;

4) Whether the government would be willing to revoke his visitor visa/entry permit or any other permission granted to him to remain in Malaysia.

5) Despite all the representations made, would the government still be willing to harbour this fugitive hate preacher?

6) I also urge you to keep your promise to the Malaysian society that you would promote the concept of ‘wasatiyyah’ (moderation).

In his letter, Waytha produced two statements (of many) that the Court of Appeal in the UK used to uphold the ban.

Statement 1: “As far as a terrorist is concerned, I tell the Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist… What is the meaning of the word ‘terrorist’? ‘Terrorist’ by definition means a person who terrorises. When a robber sees a policeman he’s terrified. So for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber… Every Muslim should be a terrorist too.”

To really appreciate the acrobatics of Zakir’s argument defending such a statement, you have to read the detailed Guardian article, which is interestingly enough for a left-leaning publication to support the ban.

“As (Court of Appeal judge) Gross LJ observes, Dr Naik’s explanation that he used the word ‘terrorist’ to support terrorising ‘anti-social elements’ is difficult enough to follow on its own terms, even with time to analyse the written word; this ‘convoluted explanation’ would simply be lost on a ‘live’ audience.

“In any event, the notion that for a robber, a policeman is a ‘terrorist’, belongs in the realms of linguistic fantasy. – Gross LJ.”

The other statement was, “The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives; many say, ‘you sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife.’ If you eat pigs, then you behave like pigs. [Occasion unspecified, referred to in Western Mail, August 2006]”

I do not know if this demonstrates that Zakir is a threat to national security but it does make me want to have a bacon sandwich, preferably during ladies’ night at a club in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Zakir a special case

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So, is Zakir a national security threat? I have never advocated that anyone should be banned. I have never advocated that anyone should stop talking or writing because what they say or write offends me. However, Zakir is a special case.

In a time when the Islamist agenda in this country is taking new forms and the agenda is promulgated by new alliances, a preacher like Zakir who specialises in deepening already established cultural and religious rifts, is a threat to national security.

While I do not make the claim that he is a terrorist, he has not demonstrated in any of his speeches that he would disavow any terrorist act that even the government of Malaysia would. While the Malay/Muslim elite think that some of his ideas are suitable for Malaysia, the reality is that he is the – again as Sam Harris would argue – the motherlode of bad ideas.

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A Royal Endorsement by The Raja of Perlis

In this country because the Prime Minster has chosen to stir up the Rohingya issue, we have sympathisers ready to assert their prerogatives. We have a revived Muslim agenda because an opposition party and an establishment party wish to preserve their power.

The region is a hotbed of terrorist activity and the term “moderate” has lost all meaning. What we have in Malaysia is a tenuous form of moderation nurtured by an already divisive majority who just want to live in peace.

While Muslim potentates in this country court a firebrand like Zakir, they unknowingly allow a certain type of Islamic fervour to spread among the disenfranchised. I say unknowingly because there is a disconnect between the political elite and the security apparatus who genuinely want to keep the country safe.

These “foot soldiers” of the security apparatus, and not the top brass who enjoy positions of influence and patronage, are losing the war for the hearts and minds of a diverse Muslim polity made of diverse nationalities, thanks to the machinations of the establishment.

This is not fear mongering. This is the reality we face and the great joke is that to people like Zakir Naik, this is how it should be.

Yesterday: The ignorant M’sians who support Hadi’s bill

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

 

Open Letter to President, Armed Forces Veteran Association


February 24, 2017

Open Letter to President, Armed Forces Veteran Association: Don’t Ampu Corrupt Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

by Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji

I received many responses to the short write-up I wrote regarding an announcement to gather more than 100,000 veterans to an assembly in July this year, allegedly made by you at a recently held Round table Conference attended by the various Armed Forces Veteran Associations in Kuala Lumpur.

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Why don’t Army Veterans do this to Corrupt Najib Razak ?

I am not privy to the reason(s) for the assembly, and the number of veterans to be gathered is unusually large. I then begin to question myself as to the purpose of the mammoth assembly, and it soon strike me to a rumour that has been going around of a possible GE-14 to be held anytime before the end of this year.

I don’t think you made the announcement on your own accord, but I strongly believe the announcement was prompted by someone high in the nation’s political hierarchy, and in all probability with selfish political agendas. I can only think of this i.e. the assembly is to propagate and influence the minds of veterans to support the current political regime.

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The ruling regime must understand what the Armed Forces Veterans had stood for, and many had lost their lives, and many others maimed for the rest of their lives in defence of the nation. The ruling regime today cannot question the loyalty of the veterans for they have proven themselves to have served the nation and King faithfully, that had brought about the prevailing peace and security of the nation today.

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A Facility for China’s emerging Blue Water Navy in the Malacca Straits

The issues affecting the nation today are startling and there is now a raising concern that the nation of which we defended with our lives will even lose it sovereignty to a foreign nation if the present regime remains ignorant to this three central issues i.e. firstly, the massive national debt that is simply ballooning; secondly, the selling off outright large tracts of land to a foreign company on the pretext of joint development and thirdly, the willingness to allow a foreign company to further develop the sea ports of Malacca and Kuantan on the pretext to facilitate and improve commercial shipping.

Now, just tell me who is actually financing all these massive projects when we know the national coffer couldn’t simply afford it. Are these loans taken from the foreign company that will only be paid many years later? Were all these projects thoroughly debated and approved by parliament? Who actually proposed and approved the projects bearing in mind the nation’s affordability to repay the loans? Now let me tell you this i.e. that all these projects will have a long-term security impact on the nation and I just wonder if the Armed Forces chiefs and leaders of our police force were ever consulted about these projects. If they were consulted and had approved it, then I say they are all foolish and are equally ignorant as their political masters as to the long-term security impact these projects will bear upon the nation. One only have to read what is happening to Sri Lanka today.

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The Corrupt Couple –A lethal combination for the moral degradation of Malaysian polity

Now, going back to the proposed mass assembly of veterans, I demand the purpose of the assembly be reasoned out to us. If it has the slightest political connotation i.e. to boost the image of our political masters to meet their self-serving political agendas, then I demand most sincerely that the assembly be called off.

*_Pse viral this message as requested by the writer_*

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang


February 19, 2017

Racist Politics in Malaysia–Blame the Whole Shebang

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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It was obvious that bigotry was never a one-way operation, that hatred bred hatred!”

– Isaac Asimov, ‘Pebble in the Sky’

COMMENT: Readers interested in what I write should consider this a companion piece to my article describing how non-Malay Malaysians (specifically) are a tolerant lot.

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Mahathir’s First Carma (Cari Makan) Journalist–A Kadir Jasin

De facto opposition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad casually mentioned last week that he was partly to blame for the demonisation of DAP. I suppose this went together with veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin’s admission that he was part of the brainwashing that went, and goes on, in UMNO. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, but I doubt that the indoctrination of Malay youths will cease any time soon when the opposition is made up of Islamic groups determined to use Islam as a political tool.

I wrote the last part of the above paragraph after the opposition had suffered a setback in the by-election where the current UMNO grand poobah was supposed to receive a black eye but apparently, the opposition punched itself in the face. A reader had emailed and asked if the schadenfreude tasted good, especially since I had predicted the results.

I take no pleasure in any opposition defeat and neither do I take pleasure in a UMNO win. This is the bitter taste of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Furthermore, when I say “evil”, do not get your panties in a twist because it is an expression and not a description of either political fronts. These days I cannot tell the difference between winning and losing when it comes to “saving Malaysia”.

As I have argued before, a country can recover from corruption scandals, but it rarely recovers from that type of Islam that neutralises the democratic imperative. In Malaysia, where race and religion are not mutually exclusive, the threat from Islamists is coupled with ethno-nationalism.

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The  First Malay Nationalist (or is it Racist?)

The de facto Opposition Leader is right when he says that he demonised DAP as DAP and other opposition parties had demonised him. However, the reality is that these political parties were not only demonising their political rivals, they were demonising entire communities.

So, when you want to win, and you demonise your political opponents, and by extension whole communities, the political terrain becomes a battleground for competing racial interests instead of ideological or policy ideas.

This is why I have always been sceptical of the opposition propaganda about voting across racial lines. In one of my numerous articles about race relations in this country, I wrote: “In addition, this idea that voting across racial lines as some sort of evidence of burgeoning multiracial solidarity is complete bunkum. The real test is when people vote across ethnic and religious lines in support of ideologies that run counter to the interests of their communities and by this, I mean egalitarian ideas that run afoul of constitutional sacred cows and social and religious dogma.”

While the former Prime Minister (and now de facto Opposition Leader) and the system contributed to Malay fear of DAP, the whole political system and voting patterns of Malaysians is also culpable for this sad state of affairs. UMNO succeeded because the majority of Malaysians voted for race-based parties. Racial preoccupations were the currency that sustained BN politics and still does.

The problem is that because we do not have an alternative, BN politics is the only game in town. Non-Malay oppositional voices and voters do not demand an alternative but rather that the system continues but in a more “fairer” manner.

DAP and MCA furiously battle for the Chinese vote. Meanwhile Malay-dominated so-called multicultural parties battle with UMNO and now PAS for the Malay vote. Until the former Prime Minister showed up, there was no central theme that united the Opposition.

While the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim and the late Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat discovered that populism does not necessarily mean racial or religious preoccupations when it comes to cobbling together a formidable coalition, the emergence of the former Prime Minister as the de facto opposition leader has given the current UMNO regime an opportunity to:

1) Revisit history.

2) Dredge up the financial scandals of the former Prime Minister.

3) Point out that their strategies for securing the Malay vote is based on his strategies that kept him in power for decades.

If anyone is wondering why questions of race always revolves around the Malay and Chinese dialectic, it is because… well, if you are going to ask this question, you have obviously not being paying attention.

All are participants in race game

When I argued that Malaysians were a tolerant lot, the thrust of the piece revolved around how systemic inequalities were a detriment to the non-Muslim population but I failed to emphasise how the non-Malay communities were active participants in the race game in this country.

Voting for race-based parties meant that we did not have to concern ourselves with egalitarian concepts that would have been the basis for a more democratic system. It was not that we were “immature” or “uneducated”, it was just easier to vote for a political hegemon that provided security and stability for decades but not the rights and responsibilities that are part and parcel of a functional democracy.

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UMNO’s Money Stealing Grand Poobah

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Tolerance may have been a one-way street, it was also the street where we stopped by the sidewalk and spat at the “Malays”. There is the other narrative of non-Malays engaging in subtle and overt racism, all the while supporting racial political parties that claimed inclusiveness.

The majority of us did this to ensure that our racial preoccupations were satisfied by a plutocrat class instead of demanding for an accountable and transparent government, but more importantly demanding for a principled opposition who fearlessly made their positions clear instead of championing communal causes under the guise of “multiracial/culturalism”.

The private sector was (is) dominated by Chinese polity who were perpetuating their own form of systemic inequalities and contextualising this reality as a response to the systemic inequality perpetrated by the UMNO Malay state.

While I think, there is generally “a live and let live” vibe between Malaysians, it would be a mistake to assume that this is some sort of national identity or some form of stable unity. I realise that this is political incorrect to say, but the hard truth is that while race relations have been manipulated by establishment (both UMNO and the Opposition), the reality is that there was always tensions between the various races of this country.

This is why talking about “race” in this country is such a demoralising endeavour. Appeals to emotion replace rational discourse. The fact that our constitution is compromised, the system itself is predicated on maintaining racial and religious superiority, makes any discussion about how the non-Malays react to such a system, their complicity in sustaining the system difficult to articulate.

The fault of UMNO and the Opposition is that nobody offered an alternative and Malaysians never expected anything better.

You know what the big difference is between the corruption scandals of UMNO back in the day and the one now is? The difference is that a vast majority of Malaysians kept voting UMNO-BN back then than they do now. This is a testament to not only the political strategies of Mahathir but also the apathy of the Malaysians. This of course is a boon for the Opposition because Mahathir seems to be the only person who can galvanise the opposition. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

 

Malaysia: Into the Future Together


February 5, 2017

TN50, 1Malaysia and other else, Mr. Najib–Time to Get back to Basics and Stop your Political and Racist Nonsense–Into the Future Together and embrace Rukun Negara

by Zainah Anwar@www.thestar.com.my

Make no mistake the project to create a new ideological infrastructure for Malaysia has been many years in the making. If the leaders continue to ignore this real threat or to be complicit in this for short-term political gain, and the rakyat continue to be blinded by demagogues who abuse ethnicity and religion for narrow sectarian interests, then we will end up fighting for crumbs indeed come 2050, or even earlier. —Zainah Anwar
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Najib Razak–Malaysia’s No. 1 Problem

AS we stumble into 2017 in a Malaysia and a world full of uncertainties, and a US President shooting from his hip, causing global turmoil, I am glad that there are actually two important discussions taking place now in Malaysia on the kind of country we want to live in.

One is the TN50 series of national dialogues with young people on the Malaysia they envision by 2050. The other is the effort to make Rukunegara the preamble to the Constitution. And I believe they should feed into each other.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who is leading the TN50 dialogue, rightfully said this process is not just about defining policies for national development, but importantly, also about defining our national identity.

That many politicians (led by none other than the  narcissistic Prime Minister himself) are still determined to use ethnicity and religion to not only define us, but to divide us remains a dominant leitmotif of Malaysian politics to this day.

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In his recent interview with The Star, Khairy (pic with his wife Nori Tun Abdullah Badawi) stated that one of the areas of engagement in TN50 will be the subject of “an inclusive, vibrant and open society”. This, he hopes, will lead to a discussion on values and what a Malaysian identity should be.

I hope these dialogue sessions will be a platform where diverse groups of stakeholders can get to listen to each other and think. And in this process the “I” can become a ‘We” – we, Malaysians.

Over the years, ethnic and religious polarisation has gotten from bad to worse in Malaysia. The sad thing is that much of this divisiveness is driven by desperate politicians who manufacture fears and threats in order to maintain their power and privilege, and by non-state political ideologues burning with self-righteousness about establishing an Islamic state and syariah and Malay supremacy.

Never mind if such strategies lead to the destruction of the Malaysia we know and love, and the Malaysia that our founding fathers envisioned. That vision remains valid today.

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Malaysia’s Ills–Greed, Corruption and Incompetence

I have always believed that this country is big enough, and blessed enough for us all to share. That was how the founding fathers saw it as they developed a political system and policies where political power and economic wealth of the nation could be equitably shared.

As other ethnically divided countries fell apart, Malaysia stood in stark contrast because of a fundamental belief that this country has no other path to follow for its survival and well-being, but for its people to choose to live together in peace and to share the wealth of the nation.

To continue to label the Chinese and Indians as pendatangs, to portray them as threats, to regard other religions as a threat to Islam when the Constitution is clear in recognising Islam as the religion of the Federation and for other religions to be practised in peace and harmony, is nothing but a deliberate and mischievous attempt to manufacture a new ideological infrastructure for an exclusivist Malaysia to serve the short-term interest of the privileged few.

With all the corruption scandals perpetrated by those elected and appointed to protect the supposed interests and rights of the bumiputras, it is time that we start to think beyond our own ethnic and religious boundaries.

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Sebab sSaya nak songlap duit rakyat lagi

For there are larger interests for the national well-being that can unite us. So I welcome the TN50 dialogue initiative which I hope will start a national conversation on the kind of Malaysia we aspire to by 2050. Will it buttress the recognition of Malaysia’s plurality in the 1957 Constitution or submit to the demands for an exclusive identity based on ethnicity and religion, and even then, one that embraces only a certain kind of Malays and Muslims, while others are labelled deviants?

Will we continue to see our diversity as our strength rather than a curse and a threat as these extremists portray? Do we want to live in fear or in hope?

The proponents of the initiative (I am one of them) to make the Rukunegara the Preamble to the Constitution is embarked on an effort to reinvigorate and reaffirm this national commitment and turn it, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, into “habits of the heart”.

The objectives and principles of the Rukunegara, carefully crafted after the trauma of 1969 and launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on National Day in 1970, were designed to rebuild a sense of national unity and purpose – of a government and its citizens committed to building a democratic, just and progressive society with a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions.

They contain values that recognise our diversity and represent our commitment to inclusiveness, and our belief in democracy, justice, equity, and unity.

While some of us embrace these values until they become “habits of the heart”, too many others in powerful positions, in their rhetoric and actions, are determined to upend the best in the Malaysian character to refashion a new identity where those different are demonised and labelled, and therefore to be feared and excluded.

Make no mistake the project to create a new ideological infrastructure for Malaysia has been many years in the making. If the leaders continue to ignore this real threat or to be complicit in this for short-term political gain, and the rakyat continue to be blinded by demagogues who abuse ethnicity and religion for narrow sectarian interests, then we will end up fighting for crumbs indeed come 2050, or even earlier.

As expected, any effort to be inclusive, consultative, realistic in facing the challenges of today and the future, is regarded as a threat by these ethno-religious extremists.

Revitalising the Rukunegara to make it the preamble to the Constitution is damned as an effort to erode the special status of the Bumiputeras and undermine Islam as the religion of the Federation.

Dialogues to provide a platform for young people to envision the Malaysia they want by 2050 is criticised for not using Islam as its framework.

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Malaysia’s Gutsy Public  Intellectual

Such myopic attitudes reveal the intent of these supremacists to turn Malaysia into a mono-ethnic and mono-religious country or at least, one that serves the interest of only one group of citizens.

We want to move forward and embrace the values and ideals of the Rukunegara that remain relevant today, if not even more.

We want to explore new ideas and build new understandings that will keep us together and promote our collective well-being as we face the difficult and complex challenges of an uncertain new world order.

We want to stride into the future with knowledge and confidence, not with self-inflicted fear and myopia.